A group of merchants determined to see business grow in their communities feel they are on the right track to making changes in 2018.
The Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce executive has spent the past few months developing a strategic plan, connecting with other rural chambers and creating ways to improve the service it provides members.
“What we really wanted to do was to be more inspiring and supportive,” said Kathleen Henderson, president of the Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The executive discussed going beyond supporting local events, she said, and brainstormed ways to better support businesses in the communities they represent, which include Black Diamond, Longview, Millarville and Turner Valley.
Henderson said the new executive began its term a year ago “sort of sliding along with what the chamber has always done,” but decided they need to make changes.
“There is more enthusiasm and energy with the board,” she said. “We are looking at things differently now.”
The executive developed a strategic plan with help from Community Futures Highwood, including a new vision and mission statement, revamped its website, increased its presence on Facebook and established a regular meeting place for its monthly meetings, Henderson said.
In addition, she met with other rural chambers to learn about their operations and how they address low membership.
“Right now the chambers in small towns are just trying to figure out do they still fill a need for our communities,” she said, adding many are struggling with weak memberships and low participation.
“Being around other small towns everyone says the same thing — they don’t know if there is a need for the chambers anymore.”
Henderson, owner of Rav’n About Styles hair salon in Black Diamond, said she and other members of the executive feel strongly that there is a need.
“In a small town I think that the need for a chamber is to communicate, to promote and to do the networking for all of those small businesses,” she said.
“If we can get the businesses all promoting and networking between each other it really helps the towns.”
The chamber’s job, said Henderson, is to be the resource hub for local businesses.
“If we want to keep our businesses and our small towns we are going to have to work very hard to get them to shop local and to get together and network, otherwise our small towns will die,” she said.
Among the chamber’s initiatives is a motivational speaker series for members and the general public.
First on the list is a presentation by Doug Griffiths, a former MLA and author of 13 Ways to Kill Your Community, in March.
Other plans in the discussion phase include sponsoring a community market on Canada Day and implementing a marathon in the summer.
The chamber will continue its information sessions for businesses in partnership with Bow Valley College and Community Futures Highwood every month or two, Henderson said.
Chamber secretary Rebecca Desaulniers said she is excited about the potential for businesses in the area.
“I feel we’ve been working hard to create some organization within the executive to figure out what we can do to help the town grow,” she said. “When we took over, it was kind of unorganized and there wasn’t much going on, so we are working hard at creating some systems and getting organized. Now we are at the point where we are ready to get into the community.”
The chamber also strives to attract more members, said Desaulniers. The Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce currently has 43 members.
“We sent an email out saying we are doing exciting things,” she said. “People responded well to the fact that we are doing things and we’re excited about it.”
The role of the executive is to keep that momentum so chamber members feel they are a part of something, said Desaulniers.
“The future of Diamond Valley is bright and I feel like a lot more businesses are going to join the chamber,” she said.
“I feel like we’re going to start creating a nice little family of business owners that can support each other and we want to bring in some motivational speakers of different topics of business running so it’s effective for people to come to the meetings.”
To learn more about the Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce go online to diamondvalleychamber.ca